How much exercise do kids’ bones need?

While most of our childhood was spent running outdoors, our kids spend their time zipping between classes – abacus, tuitions, music, painting – the list is endless! No doubt this helps all round development of their minds. However their bones are left wanting. Wanting for more sunshine, wanting for more bone strength, and wanting for more muscle strength. So how much exercise do kids’ bones need? What physical activity should your child be engaged in?

How much physical activity does my child need?

The answer to this lies in the age of your child. According to experts:

  • Infants should be encouraged to be active throughout the day.
  • Toddlers who can walk on their own should be active for at least 180 minutes. This includes time spent indoors in light activity like standing up, moving around, rolling and more energetic outdoor activity like running, climbing, jumping and playing ball games. All kids under 5 years of age should not be inactive for long periods, except while sleeping.
  • Ages 6 and above should get at least 60 minutes of activity every day. This can be broken into 15 minutes of activity for every hour that they are awake.

What exercises should my child do?

Children need three kinds of exercises:

  • Aerobic: This type of activity gets your kid’s heart and lungs pumping. Most of your child’s daily activity should include this type. This should be a mix of moderate activity like cycling on level ground, walking to school, and playground activities to really vigorous ones like running, gymnastics, swimming, martial arts, cycling fast or on hilly surfaces and playing tennis or football.

You know an activity is a moderate activity when it makes your child’s heart rate go up and makes him/ her sweat. Another way to tell is if your child can still talk but gets out of breath to sing the words of a song.

When it comes to vigorous activity, it is believed that one minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as two minutes of a moderate activity. You know your child is involved in a vigorous activity when s/he is breathing hard and fast and is not able to say more than a few words without stopping for a breath.

  • Muscle strengthening: On three days a week, your child should be engaged in activities that strengthen his / her muscles. These are important to build and maintain muscles and to maintain a healthy weight. A muscle strengthening exercise is one that requires your child to use their body weight as resistance.

Children can get involved in activities like tug of war, swinging on playground bars, tree climbing, gymnastics, etc. Older kids and teens can involve themselves in sit ups or resistance exercises with hand held weights or exercise bands, gymnastics, football, basketball or tennis.

  • Bone strengthening: These activities are most important to ensure healthy development of bones. These are activities which require your child to lift their own body weight. These should be done on at
    least 3 days per week. These include skipping, jumping, gymnastics, football, aerobics, dance, tennis, martial arts, etc.

A lot of these activities overlap, so don’t stress yourself to try and fit each of these to your child’s routine.

How much exercise is too much?

Though its’ rare to have kids who exercise too much thanks to television and mobile games, some of you may wonder how much is too much? Most kids are very good at knowing their own energy levels. The difficulty may arise in older kids who follow rigorous training timetables for organised sports.

If your child seems exhausted, unable to recover fully from training sessions or injured, s/he may be over-doing it. Another signal is when your child loses interest in an activity that they used to enjoy earlier.

Injuries are also more common in young athletes who focus on just one activity. A rough guideline can be that your child should not practice any organised sport more than one hour per year of age in a week. For example your 11 years old daughter should not exceed more than 11 hours of skating practice per week. Encourage your child to mix other activities when s/he doesn’t have their practice sessions.

If you are worried about an injury that your child could be facing due to over-exercise, do feel free to contact Dr. Mandar Agashe, Paediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Agashe Hospital. He can be reached at 022 42435000 or emailed at